- Charter schools are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. In return for this autonomy, charter schools are held accountable for their academic and financial performance.
- Charter schools are not allowed to promote any religion, unlike many private schools.
- Charter schools do not charge tuition. They are funded by taxpayers, as are traditional public schools.
- Charter schools are not magnet schools. While some charters may have characteristics similar to public magnet schools, which often have a specialized curriculum or mission, magnet schools do not have to accept all students. Charter schools are required to accept all students on a first come, first serve basis. If more students apply than there are spots available, students are selected by lottery, though preference is usually given to currently-enrolled students and their siblings.
- Even charter schools that “target” specific populations, such as special education, gifted and talented, or at-risk students, are required to accept anyone who applies.
- In Texas, authorizing entities grant “charters,” which are contracts between the authorizer and the school. As the TEA website explains, “Charter schools are subject to fewer state laws than other public schools with the idea of ensuring fiscal and academic accountability without undue regulation of instructional methods or pedagogical innovation.”
Three types of charters exist in Texas:
- Home-rule school district charters (charters that are contracted with or overseen by traditional public school districts)
- Open-enrollment charters (charters that are started by a non-profit organization, or for-profit organizations in some states, and overseen by their own board of directors.
- College/university charters (charters started and overseen by a college or university).
Most charters in Texas are open-enrollment charters authorized by the State Board of Education. Texas has set a cap of 305 on the number of open-enrollment charters allowed to operate.